Following Jesus in Divisive Times

As you probably know, I am a pastor.  This has been my calling, my life, my “gig” since 1988.  Obviously, I didn’t pastor during the Viet Nam years (the country may have been more divided then than now), but we are sure divided these days.  So what’s a pastor to do when every issue causes more division than a fourth grade math teacher?  It seems that no matter what position a genteel pastor takes 50% of the crowd will cheer him/her on and 50% of the crowd will think he/she is a moron.

Jesus offers this solution: in his final recorded prayer (in John 17) Jesus prays for himself (not surprising since the next day He is going to be crucified); He prays for his disciples (again not surprising since the next day He is going to be crucified); He prays for the world (also not surprising since… well, you already know, the next day…) and he concludes the prayer by praying for you and me. On the night before his death, Jesus prayed:

I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

Jesus prayed that we might be one. His prayer is that through our unity the world would know him. Hmmmm… now I’m just spit-ballin’ here, but if our old Enemy wanted people to NOT know Jesus, NOT follow him and think this whole Christianity thing was a bunch of doggy doo doo (sorry for the deep theological terminology, but you’ve probably noticed that’s exactly how many non-believers characterize Christianity these days), then maybe, just maybe that sly old Snake would do his best to have Christians at each other throats (just like everyone else).  Thereby throwing a proverbial wrench into Jesus’ prayer.

Listen, my brother and sisters, we MUST be united. The last thing that Jesus prayed was NOT for our happiness, health or safety (the things we seem to pray about the most). Instead, Jesus prayed that we would be one. Clearly our unity (more than Aunt Lucy’s case of the sniffles) is a big deal for Jesus. Over and over, He calls us to love one another. Couldn’t we do that?  Let’s not allow politics, skin color, national identity, language or anything else divide us.  The great commandment is to love God and love people. Period. So let’s live into the truth of the old song, “They will know we are different by our love, yes our love.  They will know we are different by our love.”

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